More 3.5 stars than 3, this was an interesting enough read that kept me rather solidly enthralled from start to finish. An iteration on the classic "sMore 3.5 stars than 3, this was an interesting enough read that kept me rather solidly enthralled from start to finish. An iteration on the classic "street rat saves princess" theme made famous in countless Disney films, but set against the backdrop of a post-oil dystopia that does nothing to hide not only the grim ecological future we will likely be inhabiting but also the human cost this future is likely bring with it. The opening third of the book laying out the culture of the ship-breaking community that has set up on the Gulf Coast fighting and dying for every square inch of copper wiring and waste oil they can strip from now-derelict oil tankers was incredibly interesting. The whirlwind adventures with the escaped heiress of a powerful shipping family? Not so much. Bacigalupi is a writer to watch, though. Between this young adult effort and his fantastic Wind-Up Girl he has shown himself more than capable of creating incredibly vivid dystopian worlds that bear just enough semblance to the world as it looks right now so as to be all the more haunting. I don't know if I'll read the rest of this Ship Breaker series, but I'll certainly make time for his future adult novels....more
When Prue's baby brother Mac is abducted by a murder of crows and flown deep into the dark of Wildwood, an untamed wood on the other side of the river from Prue's home in the North Portland hamlet of St. John's, she embarks upon a quest most perilous to see him safely returned. With her schoolmate Curtis tagging along, Prue breaches the barrier of the Wildwood and enters a magical world of talking animals, bloodthirsty ivy, and dastardly crooks aplenty. Racing to stop a deposed governess from destroying all of Wildwood, Prue and Curtis are aided by a veritable army of allies- from the Bandit King, Brendan, and the king of avian territory, Owl Rex, to the kindly hippy mystics of North Wood and the ever-hungry rat, Severus.
The entire time I was reading this book I was reminded of the stories that my father used to craft for me each night before bed- a huge sprawling epic that continued serially each night for years. While reading Wildwood I could picture Meloy weaving just such a tale for his son, transforming Portland's Forest Park into the magical land of Wildwood, and sending Prue and Curtis on one adventure after another with that wondrous theatric mind of his. Wildwood is set to have two follow-up stories and I already know that I'm going to be reading them as well....more
If you're reading this book, I'm going to have to assume (or at least hope) you've read the first in the series, The Hunger Games. Otherwise you're coIf you're reading this book, I'm going to have to assume (or at least hope) you've read the first in the series, The Hunger Games. Otherwise you're completely missing... well, pretty much everything. So, as a previous reader, you know that Katniss has won the Hunger Games and saved the life of her faux-lover, Peeta. They return to their forlorn mining district to live happily ever after. Except that can't happen yet. Big things are in the offing- Katniss' willingness to kill herself and Peeta during the last games has set the Districts simmering and rebellion is in the air. The tight grip of the Capitol upon its subjects is slipping. As the highly esteemed Bob Marley once sang, "slave driver, your table has turned. Catch a fire, so you can get burned."
It's funnny, but while I was reading this book I was struck with the strangest bit of deja vu. Not so much because of the plot itself, but because every complaint I had about The Hunger Games is replicated again here- the spare style, simplistic characterizations, and a Deus ex Machina that would even make Stephen King wince. The first half is still interminably slow, filled with what could serve as plot development, were it not so incredibly uninteresting and heavy handed. The second half returns us to the arena of the Games, which is infinitely more interesting with its ever-changing assortment of things that can kill you. But even this excitement ends perfunctorily, with a big "TO BE CONTINUED" sign.
I know what Collins is doing and, to an extent, I can appreciate it. Everyone wants to build tension for the big finale that is book 3. I'm just not quite sure that this series needs a conclusion. It could have remained a stand-alone book and been far more enjoyable. I don't know about anyone else, but it was the promise of child-on-child ultraviolence that drew me to the series. With much of that lacking in the second installment, I just didn't find it too captivating. Still, I'll probably read book 3, so Collins has her hooks sufficiently planted in me. Does that make her book a success?...more
Whenever it gets to be time to review a young adult book, I find myself at a curious loss. Those things which I normally take umbrage with- overly simWhenever it gets to be time to review a young adult book, I find myself at a curious loss. Those things which I normally take umbrage with- overly simple prose, undeveloped characters, utterly unbelievable (even for the universe of the book) plot strands- are hallmarks of the genre as a whole, accepted and unchallenged. As such, I only very rarely find myself venturing into books of this sort. In fact, I really only ever make an effort to read such books when they are in some sort of dystopian future that pits children against adult oppressors. What can I say? I’m a fiend for books of this type.
Make no bones about it, The Hunger Games is definitely an us vs. them sort of story. In a far-off-yet-unspecified future, the United States has crumbled and been reshaped into 12 districts ruled from the Capitol, nestled in the Rockie Mountains, (which I assume means it was once Denver). As an ongoing punishment for attempted rebellion against the Capitol, each District must each year send one boy and one girl to compete in a battle to the death in an arena for the amusement of the residents of the Capitol and as a constant reminder to the outlying districts of the cost of revolution. Katniss Everdeen is a precocious (aren’t they always?) 16 year old from District 12, a much-derided coal-mining district in Appalachia, who volunteers for the Games in order to spare her younger sister from certain death.
The first half of the book is easily all set-up. Explanations of the District, explanations of Katniss’ prowess with the bow and arrow, explanations of the opening ceremonies of the Games (trust me when I say that China’s Olympic Opening has nothing on the Hunger Games), explanations of Katniss’ competition- including her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta, the good-hearted son of a baker who has long had a crush on Katniss and uses this to his advantage within the Games. It wasn’t until the second half, when the Games actually begin and the kids begin offing one another in creative ways, that the book finally began to hold my interest.
Unfortunately, even this part was thin on blood, thick on explanation. I understand why this is, it would hardly qualify for young adult status if all we talked about were 14 year olds spearing small children, yet I continually would find myself beginning to get drawn in to the story only to have the action perfunctorily cut off. I was saddened. I went in expecting Battle Royale Redux but instead was treated to Running Man-lite. Still, though light on blood, Collins has created a very interesting world where the tension grows at just the right amount (and then ends so abruptly) to ensure that I will venture into the second book to see how Katniss’ silent battle against the Capitol evolves. Worth a read on a long plane flight or while coming down from a more heady piece of literature. ...more
I was really torn about how to rate this book. On the one hand, it was a fun and thrilling adventure tale, the likes of which have been setting fire tI was really torn about how to rate this book. On the one hand, it was a fun and thrilling adventure tale, the likes of which have been setting fire to the minds of young children with visions of exotic and far-flung locales for centuries. I can well imagine the delight with which this ripping yarn was received by the readers of the 1880s. On the other hand, there is just so much omnipresent racism throughout the entire story that I found it endlessly distracting and offputting.
King Solomon's Mines is written as a personal recounting of a journey taken by three Englishmen into Deepest Darkest Africa. Narrated by Allan Quartermain (yes, the same Allan Quartermain from Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, evidently this was the source book for that character), a big game hunter who meets up with Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good who are searching for Curtis' brother, who went missing while looking for the fabled mines of the title. Quartermain just happens to have a map of the way to the mines so the trio decide to set off in search.
What follows is a rollicking good adventure. There are parched throats in the desert, freezing nights atop mountains, perilous encounters with the "dark savages" of the land, the toppling of a tyrannical king in a mythical African nation that reminded me of nothing so much as Wakanda, the homeland of the Marvel superhero Black Panther, witches, exquisite works of archeological wonder and enough diamonds to fund at least eight more genocides in modern Africa. Basically, this book had everything short of the kitchen sink (though the traveler's would likely have appreciated the immense convenience of one). Were it not for Haggard's persistant racism and harping on the dangers of miscegenation, I would have likely rated this higher. As is, it's still worth a reading as long as one takes it as a product of the times in which it was written....more